Gov. John Carney vetoed HS 1 for HB 85, and with that continued a proud Delaware gubernatorial tradition of paying lip service to our precious Wilmington students in dire need.
Students who have significant challenges and obstacles like violence and poverty. Students who are most in need of significant support just to obtain an equitable opportunity to succeed in school.
So, what was HS1 for HB 85? It was a bill that passed in the recently concluded 1st session of the 149th General Assembly sponsored by Kim Williams, one of the most education-savvy members of the General Assembly. It passed both the House and Senate with over two-thirds majorities in both houses.
Another view: Carney should fight for real change in schools
At issue in this bill was an attempt to remove a specious preference baked into the 1995 charter law that permits charter schools to select a 5-mile radius as an enrollment preference, ostensibly to create a “neighborhood” feel.
Fast forward more than two decades, and the reality of how the preference rule actually functions in schools that utilize it is schools that do not reflect their communities, either racially or socio-economically. It has created enclaves of inequity. Rep. Kim Williams knows this, and she acted.
Sen. Dave Sokola knows this too. He also acted. He acted to preserve one of these pernicious enclaves by making a special exception for non-contiguous school districts to not be included in the dissolution of the 5-mile radius. The great compromise was struck and the bill passed — until it didn’t.
With the stroke of his veto pen, Gov. Carney indicated that the compromise, while well intended, “unfairly excludes some of our most vulnerable students. It does not simply remove the five-mile radius preference. The legislation creates a new standard that uniquely limits options for at-risk students in the Christina School District portion of the city of Wilmington – many of the kids who need our help the most – and that is something I cannot support.”
Just one problem: his veto did the same thing.
It left the students he used to justify his veto in the exact same spot they would be in if he signed the bill — and back we all go on the Delaware buck-passing merry-go-round of gubernatorial and legislative incompetence.
We have a standing commission (The Wilmington Education Improvement Commission) that has offered actual solutions and ideas on how to help children in Wilmington and for that matter all of Delaware. I’m not even prepared to say those ideas are perfect, but you know what they are: ideas from people who care, ideas from people close to education, and ideas from people who aren’t using our children as political talking points.
Enough blaming. Enough of legislative “leadership.” Stop using Christina Schools’ unique geography as your insidious excuse to not fix a problem you simply can’t claim to not see.
Next time you want to veto a bill and use our district as your foil, try and resist that urge and put your energy into leading Delaware towards a robust system of charters and traditional public schools that reflect their communities and provide adequate resources for all students. Hopefully, it is obvious the State Board of Education has failed in this primary mission.
So, here’s a hint: start with a robust structural and complete overhaul of school funding, not the traveling snake oil salesman routine we seem to get annually from the occupant du jour in Woodburn or the uninspired, seemingly routine inaction of our General Assembly. Everything else that needs to be fixed needs this predicate action.
Authentic leadership centered on children: let’s give that a try in the second half of the 149th General Assembly.
John Young is a school board member in the Christina School District.